Archive for February, 2014

Local Politics

February 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Local Politics

In recent weeks, I have been very busy, and unable to integrate “writing the blog” with “real life”. Writing a blog is still, for me, a bit of fun, an experiment, nothing that I could not stop doing very easily. Look at the gaps in the writing! Except if I did stop, I would not be “writing”, which I have always wanted to do. I HAVE been writing, but often in French for goodness sakes. Something that has nothing to do with “writing” as I know it. It takes me longer to write an agenda for a meeting as it does to write a blog. And since the meetings and projects abound at present, the blog suffers.

The local, that is municipal, elections take place shortly. I should say something. It is the one election about which I know something real, since nearly all the people on the various tickets live in my town. They might know me without me knowing them and the reverse. Although presently on the local council, I actually know several of them, first names, bises. But later.

The level of local politics that attracts me much more is unrelated to elections in any way. Although amongst those of us who organise that “politics” there are those who vote. Even a few who CARE about elections. Mostly “my” local politics is not related very concretely to the cycle of elections. My kind of politics has been going on forever, but of course in its special recent variety during the last fifty years or so, 1959(ish)-2014. Is it really sixty-five? That’s why back in the 70s those of us talking about that kind of politics sometimes used, for want of a better term, “non-parliamentary this or that”. On that non-electoral level there is quite a bit of activity at present, although there are periods when there is not so much ferment. I think there continues to be a slow and steady recruitment of people to altermondialiste type activities, even Occupy type. The names change but the opposition, the alternative, is always there.

Specifically, I have mostly been concerned with the revitalisation of the Social Forum. It now very much appears that it is a done deal. I can’t remember the “latest news” of the Social Forum was on this blog, so I might be repeating myself. We have a formal letter from the mayor saying we have 6 grand to spend. Short meeting with the mayor. We say we need money for what we have done twice before. They know what we have done. So they said yes. Actually, on the previous two social forums there was only a handshake, the word of a politician. This time, as one of the co-organisers said, we got an actual letter. So the money is there. Enough to pay for the travel costs of people that various workshops might want to invite. No other costs, just travel. Printing costs. Wine for a party, things like that.

We have a date, 4-5-6 July. There was a shudder when we found out another local association, one focussed on older people, had booked all the big venues in town for the Saturday night, and one or two other days on that weekend. The mayor suggested that he woulds investigate and see what he could do. Essentially the group had booked all the rooms, just in case. So, in the end, we get to use all the spaces we have always used, but not the new “spectacle” building, constructed since the last Social Forum in 2009. Capacity 600 or more for a movie, for example. Or a party. That remains unavailable to the Forum Social des Hauts Cantons (FSHC). The date is not perfect, but it is the first weekend after the kids are off school. So we can use the courtyard and some rooms in the primary school, as previously. So families who depart the very first day possible for holidays might miss the weekend. Most others can take it into account or maybe they are part of the two thirds of French households who have no school age children in it. The general consensus is that Maybe or June is the best time. Still.

So what rooms do we need to organise. Same as before, but with another small room and cinemas available. So the new local, which the FSHC can now use (a story in itself and not yet over) for meetings, is also booked for the weekend FSHC. You could have fifteen people in it without problem. A bit dingy. We also have a room which is state of the art community centre, good sounds, screens and all you need. You could have a dance in there, about 150 people sitting listening to someone. About 80 wandering about in small working groups and so forth. Has a kitchen of sorts, and nice toilets. Good lighting, right next to a car park. We also have a newly refitted large room. Probably bigger than the first. Actually the second larger room is being renovated totally, and was meant to be finished by now. So it will be for May. I am not sure what it is going to look like, but it has one medium sized room and a largish room where maybe 250-300 people could watch a spectacle, or break into workshops. There might be one or two smaller rooms we can use around town, but maybe not for the entire weekend. We also get to use some unspecified spaces in the Primary School, but totally use the shaded courtyard and adjoining tarmacked spaces for outdoor eating, music and stands advocating or promoting this or that. We also might branch out into the river banks this year. But the newest and most interesting space is the new municipal cinema. Although it is a bit behind schedule, it should be opening and flowing by July. New 3D, digital, updated technology. Three rooms, I think 20, 50 and 100 possible cinema goers. So really, to fill up those spaces, we have to do a bit of work, contacting, organising, just cleaning up details.

The method that seems to have evolved over the years is to try to find one or two, maybe three or four people who can take care of one set of details. A “commission” apparently is the right name. So for example, Jean Claude, Fanny and I, with whomever we can recruit in the next months, will take care of finding people who want to organise or animate/facilitate a two hour space/time. For example, they want to do something on organising “short circuits” of producing and distribution of particularly food products or maybe protest fracking or discuss “decroissance”. They will organise a workshop and maybe invite someone outside the group to intervene in the workshop. The organising group, called Le Petit Comité (LPC), has to find the animateurs, design and print up the brochure, find the space and time, and take care of overall publicity. The animateurs ask the LPC for travel money and we usually say yes, since we usually have enough money. No one gets paid, all for love. The bottom line is that since we are cheap and honest, put on a good show, and if we ever spent more than 6k, the mayor would pay the bill.

The next meeting will be crucial, although I believe I have said that about every meeting for nearly a year. So maybe we can say the next meeting is where the various commissions make their first real report on what they have done. Since the last meeting in January, we have known we have the money, we have the spaces, all we have to do is find the people to fill the spaces. If the various reports from various commissions are heartening, then morale will be high. If not, then we will start to doubt we can do it by July. As for me, I don’t know how much time I can spend on it, and I am, at present, a rather important figure in the movers and shakers role. I even write in French (with many mistakes) and just use them as they are, not even asking my wife or others to translate. They can easily recognise my prose style, and know it requires editing. But if one of them did stuff like the agenda for a meeting, or various small announcements, then I would be happy not to have to think of stuff like that. I always seem to end up doing things like passing the mayor’s office five times before I could get crucial word with a crucial guy about the spaces we can use. Thing is, the mairie is on my way to the centre of town and I know people who work there, so it is just a detail. The first time I was the go-to guy for photocopying, again at the mairie. I think maybe some people always have to do that kind of thing, but frankly, I am a “big picture” guy and don’t really like doing photocopying or seeking out politicians for room reservations. I don’t mind meeting them when I believe in the project I am doing, but overall politicians have an unpleasant job, lying and disappointing and distributing scarcity, so they are not very nice.

So we have movie people, working on using the cinema space, food and drink people who are going find ways to subcontract the work of feeding people to various semi-local or semi-good groups who want to do it. Apparently there might be enough travelling food crews and local food people to feed the several hundred people who will turn up over the weekend. They have to find Friday evening meal, Saturday lunch and evening, plus Sunday lunch. Saturday is the biggest day, and usually ends with lots of people hanging around in the big courtyard, dancing, music, drinking, chatting. I will probably go home long before the younger folks. By the time the actual weekend is upon us, I hope to have done all the work I can do easily and well, and I should be able to just wander around checking things out, with my mobile phone. I have already given my number to one more person, and I expect that as the months go by I will more than double the number of people who can ring me easily. There are about four people who ring me now. By July there probably will be ten who might ring me. And the annoying thing is that when the phone rings, I can’t quite see the name, without my reading glasses, which are usually in my pocket. But enough of that.

I think have said quite enough. But I have been busy, doing stuff that is trivial but necessary. I should say that my imaginative, morale boosting, organising sides have also got a workout. We shall see. There were not THAT many people at the January meeting, could have been 3-4 more to be safe. But of course, as with all these things, we won’t know until Saturday night if it is a success. More bulletins later of course.